A few things before I start. First, I hadn’t planned on visiting the Field Museum before we arrived in Chicago, last-minute decision. We were debating whether we would see the Art Institute of Chicago, as we were cramped for time on our last go round, or see something else. So I didn’t get a chance to research at all, I usually get a preview on a subject if I plan to write about it. I wasn’t sure if I would blog this.
Secondly, we didn’t see everything, only the general admission exhibits. At $22 dollars a head, with an extra $15 to see the ticketed exhibits, the general admission was pricy enough. I chewed on the Idea of seeing everything but, in the end, we saved $30.
So, I wasn’t prepared, plus I hadn’t seen the entire Museum. Why write about it? My answer is, simply, that I was stunned. I’ve been to Museum Campus plenty of times, usually to visit Shedd’s Aquarium or the Museum of Science and Industry, both great learning and entertainment endeavors. Yet, I only knew of the Field simply as the ‘place with the Dinosaur bones’ which, as I’ve been visiting Museum Campus since boyhood, should have been enough motivation.
I am left to simply relive the highlights that, in their own right, are definitely worth the rather high admission rate. The Field museum has the feeling of scholarly antiquity. I sense the intelligence and feel the excitement of those leaders of the field, having discovered these pieces.
I am left to wander a hall whose walls hold mildly interesting exhibits. It is here, in a small room, that I discover something I’ve always fancied viewing in person. It may seem rather mundane, however, like many of my generation- I love Jurassic Park. Insects trapped and preserved in amber beg the question, “Could we really reconstruct a prehistoric animal?” I marvel at an extinct bug, forever giving testimony of its existence, in a crafted piece of jewelry.
After the fascinating start, I find the Ancient Egypt gallery. With the lights turned low and the aged art, jewelry, pottery and mummies I feel as if I have entered some ancient realm. I can only imagine what the discovering archeologists thought when they uncovered hieroglyphs 5,000 years old. The fact that a culture can speak to us with actual words, albeit in a dead language, is simply mind-blowing.
A replica of a tomb and an actual boat strike a conclusion. It seems, even if we are far more advanced today, the human mind of ancient Egypt was already well-developed, as was his aptitude for innovation and logical thinking. The need to preserve bodies and prepare tombs for the coming afterlife cast a shadow. In their time, so much discovery and understanding of the world, in which they lived, was lacking. Yet, ingenuity and creativity prevailed in one of the oldest societies on the planet earth.
More ancient cultures lie ahead. This time the subject matter is the ancient civilizations of the America’s. When someone mentions the new world’s past, I picture sketchy theories and forgotten worlds. Although much of Ancient Egypt is a mystery, the American counterparts just don’t have the same kick. I change my mind after walking through the abundant artifacts and exhibits.
The walls contain everything you could imagine. From Mayans, Incan’s and Aztecs to Eskimos, Cherokees and Apache. I marvel at the ancient art of the Mayan’s, Incans and Aztecs. I’m not only looking at lost pottery recovered in dirt, but interesting creations, leaving me guessing as to their significance on an ancient society.
Looming in one of the many halls, totem poles, created by early inhabitants of the northwest, dwarf awestruck visitors. The giant timbers decorated with imaginative beasts and, what appear to be, demons send a thrill through me. Of course there are weapons, tools, musical instruments and clothing on display from the many lost cultures of the conquered Americas.
I leave the galleries with a new perspective on the inappropriate title ‘New World’. Obviously, civilizations farmed, hunted and traded with one another before Europeans felt the urge to develop new and faster trade routes. Art, architecture, warefare and much more were being developed by people unaware of the dangerous greed rising across the Atlantic.
We leave the plight of the ancient cultures behind and find a menagerie of animals. Well, they are not living, but the taxidermy has preserved these beasts so, at least their likeness, could be looked upon. Headlining the show, the lions Tsavo remind us how dangerous mother nature can be. They were maneaters, killing at least thirty five men before they were hunted down and killed.
The last and most significant part of the museum, not saying the rest was not compelling, is the Evolving Earth Gallery. This follows the development of organisms from single cell lives to the thinking minds of man. There are fossils, skeletons and more in this great exhibition area.
The pinnacles, of course, have to be the remnants of the largest animals that walked the earth, dinosaurs. Following that, in a close second, the remains of early species of man are on display. Neanderthal and the like cause me to marvel at the complexity of natural selection. How did they die out? Do we want to know?
There is more, from meteorites to DNA labs. Alas, I’ll allow you to discover these on your own. Along with all these unique artifacts and fossils lies the Museum’s prized piece, Sue (Pictured as the cover photo) the most complete and largest T-rex to date.
The Field Museum, listed as a museum of natural history, is one of the largest of its kind. We did not see everything, yet, I feel fulfilled after the visit. We spent over three hours in the museum and, if I wished, it could have been much longer. It offered insight, education, entertainment and an appreciation of the very diverse and complex world in which we, as man and Americans, were derived.